What is a citation?
A local citation is a mention of your business on the internet. This can come in the form of your business name, address, phone number or website. These mentions can be found on business directories, social media, online newspapers, press releases and anywhere else on the web.
Citations help potential clients find your business and are also a key factor in helping you rank in Local search results.
What Goes into a Citation?
The main elements which go into a citation are the business name, address, phone number and website. Even if the phone number is the only element present, it is considered an unstructured citation. Any of these elements can be present online for the business in order for it to be considered a citation:
- Business name
- Phone number
In addition, any of the following can be included:
- Driving directions
- Business description
- Business category
- Geo-coordinates (Latitude and Longitude)
- Social media profiles
- Payment forms accepted
- Map marker
- Business associations
It is best to fill out as much information as possible so potential customers visiting the citation source understand as much about your business as possible. In addition, this will give the search engines additional information to verify your business is what and where you say it is. The more information about your business which is scattered throughout the web, the more the search engines begin to trust that information. The more the search engines see your business, the more they begin to trust your business, and the higher you will rank in the SERPs.
Some examples of citations are:
- Company name
Why are Citations important?
As, stated above, the more the search engines see mentions of your business or business information online, the more the search engines will trust your business, and the better your chances your customers will find your business information. According to Whitespark, “Local citations significantly influence two scenarios relating to local businesses.” I’ll let them tell the rest:
- Local citations either positively or negatively impact local search engine rankings. The number of citations a business accrues, the accuracy of the data they feature, and the quality of the platforms they exist on all influence rankings. Search engines like Google amass data about each business. If what they encounter is accurate, the search engine trusts the validity of the data, which is believed to strengthen the business’ chance of ranking well. However, if the data search engines encounter is inconsistent, this trust is eroded, lessening ranking opportunities.
- Local citations either positively or negatively impact consumers. Accurate citations help people discover a local business, which can result in web, phone, and foot traffic, culminating in transactions. Inaccurate citations, however, can misdirect customers, leading to loss of reputation and revenue.
Your business needs to be listed on the major search engines, your business niche directories, and the primary data sources (Axiom, Localeze, Factual, InfoGroup). There is conflicting information in Local SEO as to the accuracy of business information. Some say, having your business information correct and identical on each citation source is critical. There are others, myself included, who believe having your business information correct on the search engines, your niche directories and the primary data sources is good enough.
The important thing to remember is to be certain your business name, address, phone number and website are accurate on each of the data sources, search engines and niche directories.
Similar to many other ranking factors in Local SEO, citations have been gaining and losing importance for the past several years. I see citations more as a foundational element for Local SEO. They have to be present in order for your business to rank, but they will not likely give you an advantage over your competition, unless your competitors do not have citations or they are inaccurate.
Having your business listed with the 4 main data aggregators, the Search Engines and several main niche directory websites is enough to establish authority, create trust and help improve your Local ranking. Remember, citations aid the search engines in giving them signs that your business exists, it is where you say it is and you perform the services you say. If there is vast discrepancies in this information, you will confuse the Search Engines and you will not rank for the terms you want to rank for. In addition, your potential customers will be confused and will not understand where your business is located or what services/products you provide. Keep your citations on point so the Search Engines can easily verify your business is legit.
The more places your business information appears on the web, the more prominent and trustworthy your business becomes in the eyes of Search Engines and your potential customers. Think of citations and links as a popularity contest – the more links and citations you have, the more popular your business will be online. If you have citations and links from popular websites, even better!
Citations are mentions of your business anywhere on the web. They are one of the main foundational elements which will help your website rank in the SERPs. In addition, they can influence customer discovery of your business, positively impact search rankings, reputation, and revenue. As long as your citations are built, accurate and complete, you should not have to do much more managing of them. Citations are more of a “set it and forget it” deal, unless you change any your business information. Citations will not give you a huge boost over your competitors unless your competition is not building citations, as they are a basic, yet necessary element of Local SEO.